One of the joys of August is when the air fills with the fragrance of Clethra (commonly known as Summersweet). If you are taking a walk in the woods and notice a strong sweet smell, chances are you’ve stumbled upon a wild patch of this east-coast native. Clethra is also a great garden plant: as fill in a border, or planted along a path, next to a patio, or near a window where you are more likely to appreciate the fragrance. Clethra attracts all sorts of pollinators, including butterflies & hummingbirds, and the seeds provide food for song birds. Growing & flowering happily in sun or shade, it just doesn’t like to get too dried out. Clethra will increase in width by root suckers, which you can remove to keep the plants in bounds if you wish.
The straight species, Clethra alnifolia paniculata, is an upright growing shrub about 5-6' tall and wide. 'Pink Spires' and 'Rosea' are cultivars with pink flowers and similar growth pattern to the species. For a more compact plant, 'Hummingbird' and 'Sixteen Candles' have white flowers and grow 3-4' high and wide.
''Hummingbird' in a mixed planting along a walkway